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Keep eye on India as climate change worsens

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An old high school friend, a practicing pathologist in northern India, visited with me in mid-August, just as the temperature started its sharp climb during the dog days of summer. I joked that she brought Indian conditions with her. Talk about the weather soon morphed into discussions of climate change.

My friend, like many hundreds of millions in India, is intensely familiar with the recent unusual meteorological happenings there. Last December, the city of Chennai — home to her parents and mine — received rainfall amounts that vastly exceeded all kinds of records, and the city was flooded. (I addressed this in a column published on Jan. 6.)

In late spring, more than a quarter of India’s 1.2 billion people struggled with drought and a water shortage. Conditions worsened in the summer, when the country recorded unbearably hot temperatures. The heat wave turned out to be a killer, much as the heat wave of 2015 was.

Then, when the monsoon arrived after all the heat and dust, it poured and flooded. In Kaziranga National Park in northeast India, more than 20 rhinos, which had been making quite a recovery after near-extinction, were killed in the monsoon floods.

Most scientists and lay people in India agree that these extreme weather episodes, year after year, are a result of climatic conditions that are getting weirder and less predictable as they might have been in the past.

Here in the United States, too, it is no mere accident that record-setting rain fell in Louisiana. Only months before, we witnessed Houston being deluged by rains. When records are being shattered in places across the world, across different parameters of heat, rain, drought and cold, then surely these are not isolated events but a part of a larger story.

When it comes to that larger story of global climate change, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. Instead, the cumulative effects of Vegas and everywhere else mean that all of us, anywhere on the planet, are feeling the effects. More extreme weather events bring more destruction of life and property.

My friend and I got to talking about what can be done. “Look at all the lights here,” she remarked. Homes were aglow in my neighborhood from the lights inside and from street lamps. Artificial light is in such great abundance in the U.S. that we worry about light pollution that prevents most Americans from sighting even our own home galaxy — the Milky Way. “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” is an abstract idea for many urban kids who rarely see stars in the sky during their everyday lives.

It is quite a contrast in my friend’s country. “In India, a large population doesn’t even have electricity in their homes. Turning the lights off won’t help fight climate change,” she said.

Read more at: http://registerguard.com/rg/opinion/34743604-78/keep-eye-on-india-as-climate-change-worsens.html.csp

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